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NYPD Unveils Innovative Program to Help Young People Achieve Positive Outcomes

January 22, 2019

Virtual Reality Enhances Learning as Police and Youth Explore Best 'Options'

The New York Police Department and the New York City Police Foundation unveiled today an innovative program that harnesses modern technology and builds on the fundamentals of Neighborhood Policing in order to help young New Yorkers overcome some of the challenges they may face on the streets of the city. The new program, Options, was made possible with the generous support of the New York City Police Foundation.

Options employs cutting edge virtual reality technology to illustrate the link between positive interactions and beneficial outcomes — and better options for everyone. The curriculum develops emotional intelligence, emphasizes de-escalation and features virtual reality-based scenarios designed to simulate real-life encounters that young people may experience. During the final phase of the program, participants are equipped with virtual reality goggles and undergo simulations during which they may be: asked to join a gang, asked to commit a crime, or stopped by the police. Participants may also experience a police stop from an officer's perspective. The technology provides the most realistic and immersive experience in department history.

Options was developed to augment Neighborhood Policing, the NYPD's flagship crime-fighting strategy that helps keep all New Yorkers safe through precision policing and building strong relationships - grounded in trust - with community members. This strategy, along with the hard work of the members of the NYPD and their partners in the community, helped the city achieve record low crime in 2018.

"The NYPD is always innovating in our continued effort to fight crime and keep people safe. And we also know that public safety is a shared responsibility, so many of our best ideas are those that directly connect us with the people we serve. That is why we are excited to announce the Options program, which is the nexus of community engagement, cutting-edge technology, and creative problem-solving. And it further proves that when we work together, we make the safest large city in America even safer," said Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill.

"Public safety is a shared responsibility, and it's crucial that we include the voice of our city's youth in Neighborhood Policing. The Options program and the virtual reality scenarios are an effective way to engage young New Yorkers and teach them valuable life skills," said Chief of Patrol Rodney K. Harrison.

"The New York City Police Foundation works tirelessly to develop and support innovative programs that directly impact the safety and quality of life of the people that live, visit, and work in the city. Developed collaboratively with the NYPD and Street Smarts VR, this latest initiative highlights how this great public-private partnership continues to produce results and helps to enhance the relationship between police and the community," said New York City Police Foundation President and CEO Susan L. Birnbaum.

The Options program is administered in three one-hour sessions and can be hosted by schools, faith based organizations or by other community based groups. The intended audience is middle school- and high school-age New Yorkers. It was developed by the NYPD with funding and curriculum development assistance from the New York City Police Foundation and additional assistance from Street Smarts VR. To date, about 300 young people, mostly from Brooklyn, have participated in the Options program. The department has trained 100 officers in 20 different commands, who can now administer the program.